This is Autumn the rooster. I want you to know his name.
Autumn died suddenly yesterday after what appeared to be a brief illness, seen mostly in a mild runny nose. I took him to the vet just a few days prior, and with medications was certain that his recovery would be swift.
But chickens are masters of hiding their suffering, and it seems there was much more going on than he let on.
Autumn is dead, so I suppose I should have said, “This was Autumn the rooster.” The problem with recent and unexpected deaths, though, is that past and present coexist. They mingle together; they dance and flirt in a sort of chronological vortex that pulls in your mind, little by little.
Soon nothing seems quite clear and concrete; everything exists in a liminal state, swirling.
Lurking around all of this dysphoria, of course, is a recognition that roosters specifically (along with chickens in general) fall very low on the scale of moral consideration for most people. Whereas hens lay eggs that humans can eat, making them at least “worth something” to the many humans who love to eat eggs, roosters do not do a whole lot that humans find particularly useful. In fact, roosters are mostly a pain in the ass–a kicking, biting, intimidating whirlwind of feathers and fury that your average human wants to avoid.
These interrelated attitudes of apathy and aversion towards roosters lead to some devastating consequences. Female and male chicks are born in about equal numbers, but males are, as a policy, killed at hatcheries. If they are not ground up alive or suffocated in a trash bin, you might find their dead bodies used as packaging material and insulation for the chicks you ordered for your backyard flock and your “happy” eggs. The horrors faced by these young boys are just unfathomable, but we know what goes on. For example:
Those boys who do make it out alive typically end up, like Autumn, unwanted and abandoned; many end up killed once they reveal themselves to be male with that first crow.
I remember getting a message that police in a local town had picked up a stray hen, and the only offers to “rescue” her came with a promise to eat her. I got in the car, drove to where she was being held, and got her out of harm’s way. For several weeks, in fact, we believed Autumn was a she. Until that crowing started.
He was always an affable fellow. While not obviously craving affection, he would very quickly fall asleep on your shoulder while being held, and he loved a good scratch on the neck.
Once he arrived at our place, he quickly became attached to another recent rescue, Salem. They were virtually inseparable. One of my fondest memories is bringing them outside to their yard and watching them greet each other with a rooster dance. Where one was, you would find the other. Their bond was profound.
Autumn’s last days were spent inside, for what we thought would be a short recuperation period. I held him to help give him his medications on what would be his final morning, scratched his neck (like a Narcoleptic, he quickly nodded off as I stroked him), and gave him a kiss.
The dysphoria of sudden death is in many ways centered on a clumsiness in transitioning from present to past tenses. We experience this transition with every breath, but changing tenses for individuals and our relationships with them is a much harder process to navigate: I still feel out of balance and teetering, as does the rest of the world…
I am treating this piece as a performance art piece, not a blog post. Each time someone from the animal rights/vegan community wants to write an article about how white the animal rights/vegan movement is, I hope that they choose one person from this list to write an article about instead.
This list is not in any particular order, and it is not meant to be completely exhaustive. Additionally, I can’t guarantee that everyone on this list is still vegan, though they were at the time of my research. I acquired this information simply by researching online and asking around. Also, I must note that I personally don’t think eating a plant-based diet automatically means that you’re a political activist or animal rights activist. As I said in a previous post “Veganism without politicization only yields de-contexualized diets.”
Nevertheless, this list is meant to serve as a statement for anyone who says “veganism is white.”
If you know of other black vegans that are not listed, please comment with their name and bio. If you’re frustrated with the routine exclusion of black folks from these spaces, then share, share, share.
[If you see an error in your bio, or you want something corrected, email me at email@example.com and I’ll fix it. I only want the comments section to be filled with more black vegan names.]
Christopher-Sebastian is a well-known activist who is currently a staff writer at Vegan Publishers. He also organizes events and discussions relative to exploring the intersectionality of veganism and other movements for social justice including women, the LGBT community, and people of color. McJetters participated in the 2015 Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matters conference. McJetters is also a collaborator for Striving with Systems.
3. Kimberly Elise
As a famous actress, Elise is known for playing in films like For Colored Girls, Diary of A Mad Black Woman, and The Manchurian Candidate, but she is also an enthusiastic vegan. Elise runs her own site called Kimberly Elise Natural Livingwhere she posts vegan recipes as well as health and beauty advice. She has also written a post about why she became vegan in the first place saying:
“With the deletion of meat and animal products from my diet came a physical blossoming I never planned on. My skin cleared up, my hair grew in thicker and stronger, my moods became more peaceful and more joyful.”
4. Angela Davis
Dr. Angela Davis is a famous scholar, activist, and writer. She is perhaps best known for being a political prisoner in the 1970s. Dr. Davis ran for Vice President of the United States in 1980 and 1984 on the Communist Party ticket. Davis is very outspoken about the prison-industrial complex and has recently become more vocal about her vegan politics. At the 27th Empowering Women of Color Conference, Davis stated:
“I think it’s the right moment to talk about it because it is part of a revolutionary perspective – how can we not only discover more compassionate relations with human beings but how can we develop compassionate relations with the other creatures with whom we share this planet and that would mean challenging the whole capitalist industrial form of food production.”
Bryant Terry is a chef, educator, and author known for his activist mission to make a healthy, just, and sustainable food system. Bryant’s fourth book, Afro Vegan, was published in April 2014. In December it was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Literary Work category.
He is currently the Chef in Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, All Things Considered, O: The Oprah Magazine, Colorlines, Vegetarian Times, and CNN.com among many other publications.
7. Syl Ko
Syl Ko is a vegan counter-culture activist and graduate student in philosophy. Her primary interest is in critical animal studies but she also focuses on black feminism, the history of philosophy and (increasingly) decolonial theory. In between research and teaching, Syl volunteers for local organizations that promote community engagement with social justice issues. Syl is known for co-writing the article “5 Reasons for Why Animal Rights are a Feminist Issue” on Everyday Feminism. She also plays the voice of “Marie” in the web-series Black Feminist Blogger.
8. Aph Ko
Aph is a social justice activist, feminist, writer, and indie digital media producer. She is known for making fictional comedy web-series that tackle social justice issues. Tales from the Kraka Tower satirizes diversity in academia [and features a vegan black character], and Black Feminist Blogger highlights the massive amount of invisible labor in blogging. Her work has been featured on theDaily Beast, Ebony, Slate, the Feminist Wire, Afropunk, Black Girl Nerds, and more. She is known for co-writing the article with her sister Syl “5 Reasons for Why Animal Rights are a Feminist Issue.” She was awarded the 2015 Anti-Racist Change-Maker of the Year Award by the Sistah Vegan Project & the Pollination Project.
9. Venus Williams
Known for her athletic achievements, Venus Williams is one of the most famous tennis players of all time. In February 2002, she became the first black woman to ever win world #1 in singles. She has won 4 Olympic gold medals. She became a raw food vegan after she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that caused fatigue and pain.
10. Serena Williams
As a younger sister to Venus, Serena is also a tennis powerhouse. She is currently ranked No. 1 in Women’s Single Tennis. She became vegan to help accommodate Venus saying, “I don’t want her to come home and see a piece of chicken and be like, ‘Oh, I want it,’ and she can’t have it. It would be like a stumbling block for her.” While eating raw vegan food, Serena won the 2013 U.S. Open as well as the 2015 French Open.
11. Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu is a famous singer-songwriter, artist, and activist known for her eclectic style and smooth soulful vocals. Known as the “Queen of Neo-Soul,” Badu is also very vocal about her vegan diet, making connections between animal abuse as well as the systemic food injustices towards people of color. In an interview with VegNews in 2008, Badu said, “[What farmed animals] endure is just terrible. It’s horrible…black people, poor people-we’ve not really been introduced to the injustices behind what we eat…Vegan food is soul food in its truest form. Soul food means to feed the soul. And, to me, your soul is your intent. If your intent is pure, you are pure.”
12. Carl Lewis
Carl Lewis is a former Olympic athlete, famous for being a dominant sprinter and long-jumper. Lewis won 10 Olympic gold medals and was named “Olympian of the Century” by Sports Illustrated. He became vegan for health reasons and wrote, “Keep in mind that eating vegan does require a commitment to being good to your body and to acting responsibly toward the world around you. Most of us are not aware of how much damage we do to our bodies and to our world by the way we eat.”
13. Tracye McQuirter
Tracye is a vegan trailblazer, public health nutritionist, author, lecturer, and 30-year vegan. She has a master’s in public health and is the author of By Any Greens Necessary, which was the #1 recommended vegan book on The Huffington Post.
Tracye served as program director of the nation’s first federally funded vegan nutrition program, the Vegetarian Society of DC Eat Smart Program, and has been teaching vegan nutrition seminars for more than 25 years.
Tracye also served as a policy advisor for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, helping to create the strategy for a groundbreaking lawsuit proving food industry bias in the formation of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
14. Marya McQuirter, Ph.D.
Sister to Tracye McQuirter, Marya is a sustainability consultant, scholar, and blogger based in Washington, DC. She works with universities, businesses, and non-profits on researching, writing, and marketing their sustainability portfolios. She also lectures widely on sustainability and writes about sustainability on her blog, chocolate & arugula. Marya and her sister started one of the first ever vegan websites for African Americans.
15. Afya Ibomu
Afya Ibomu is a Holistic Nutritionist, Author, the CEO of NATTRAL.com, and has been a living plant based since 1990. Her third book, The Vegan Soul Food Guide to the Galaxy, was nominated for an African American Literary Award for cookbook of the year. Afya is certified in Holistic Health and holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. Afya is a celebrity nutritionist and crochet designer working with hip hop artists such as Erykah Badu, Common, Dead Prez, and Talib Kweli. Afya currently lives in Atlanta with her husband, stic.man of dead prez, and their thirteen year-old son, Itwela.
16. Monique Koch
Monique is a writer, speaker, and YouTuber. After having a hard time finding vegans of color, she started to journey into entrepreneurship. Her goal is to show that you can live a vegan lifestyle that is fun, accessible, and delicious with your family.
Monique runs the Brown Vegan website where she offers a down-to-earth approach to vegan life for families.
17. Lucas & Kenya
Kenya and Lucas are a vegan married couple with two identical twin boys. They run Our Vegan Pregnancy, a website dedicated to tracking their pregnancy and subsequent upbringing of their two boys. They also detail their children’s journey through veganism.
18. Kevin Tillman
Kevin Tillman is becoming a household name in the field of food justice, activism, and veganism. Founder of the Vegan Hip Hop Movement, Kevin is a public speaker, animal rights activist, and feminist. The Vegan Hip Hop movement is about food justice with a plant-based/decolonial diet perspective meeting hip hop. They explore the intersections of other animal/human/earth liberation. The fusion of veganism and hip hop is designed to promote holistic activism.
In an interview with Vegan Straight Edge, he said:
“… Hip Hop has historically served as the mouthpiece for oppressed groups in society (i.e. the poor and people of color). Veganism applied to this level of activism only expands the circle for other oppressed beings, other animals. We are all animals and the sooner folks make the connection the better off we all are.”
Gregory was also a civil rights activist and outspoken feminist. In 1978 he marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to the United States Capitol with a crowd of over 100,000 on Women’s Equality Day in 1978 to demonstrate for a ratification deadline extension for the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.
20. Queen Afua
Queen Afua is the founder of Queen Afua Wellness Center and is an internationally renowned best-selling author, holistic wellness entrepreneur, and natural health practitioner.
With more than 40 years of experience, Queen Afua has built a wellness empire that also includes the Global City of Wellness Institute, the Phenomenal Woman of Wellness School, and the Heal Thyself School.
Queen Afua has lectured at UNESCO, NASA, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Tuskegee University, the University of the Virgin Islands, as well as many other universities and institutions throughout the country.
21. Makini Howell
Makini Howell is the owner of Plum Bistro, a vegan restaurant in Seattle, Washington and she’s also the author of the popular cookbook Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro. Howell is a lifelong vegan and self-trained chef. She earned a degree in fashion design and spent eight years making men’s clothing before successfully becoming a chef.
Latham is a graduate of Columbia University, where she earned a degree in Visual arts and Environmental science, as well as the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She is a certified holistic health counselor, who mixes her passions of plant physiology, botany, holistic nutrition, fitness, yoga, and green cuisine into a lifestyle program that supports the various needs of her clients. She is the co-founder of Panela Productions, a company that educates parents and children about food, through cooking classes, and events.
Ashel Eldridge aka Seasunz, originally from Chicago, is a frontman emcee, vocalist, producer, and the founder of Earth Amplified. Based in Oakland, he performs and presents his conscious music, poetry and spiritual activism nationally.
Seasunz is a co-founder of United Roots – Oakland’s Green Youth Arts and Media Center, where he serves as the Health and Sustainability Coordinator. He is also the founder of SOS Juice, a solar-powered, revenue-generating nonprofit that sells juice and smoothies at farmers markets, promotes health, supports sustainable agriculture, and creates green career paths for low-income youth and theformerly incarcerated.
26. Stic Man
Stic Man [Khnum Muata Ibomu] is a rapper, activist, and author. He is known for being in the political hip-hop duo Dead Prez. In an article he wrote titled “7 Ways to Eat Good on a Hood Budget” he says, “We can eat healthy on a hood budget. We deserve the best and we can start living like we understand our value by choosing to adopt healthier habits. When the hood is strong, we are truly unstoppable.”
For Stic Man, promoting a healthy lifestyle through veganism is political social justice activism. He became vegan after he was diagnosed with gout in his 20’s and was introduced to veganism through his wife. His album, The Workout, promotes themes of health and wellness with songs titled “Runners High”; “Let it Burn”; “Yoga Mat”‘ and “Sober Soldier.” Check out this interview with Stic Man on the Huffington Post.
27. Brandie Skorker
Brandie was recently awarded with one of the 2015 Anti-Racist Change-Maker of the Year Awards given out by the Sistah Vegan Project and the Pollination Project. Brandie is a queer femme living in Boston, Ma., smashing patriarchy, standing up for animals, loving her body unconditionaly, fighting against racism, homophobia, transphobia, and street harassment. Brandie is a Community Engagement Coordinator for VINE Sanctuary. She runs the Feministfists website
28. Jim Morris
Jim Morris is a body-builder who has competed for over 30 years. He has won titles like Mr. USA and Mr. Olympia Masters Over 60.
He has been a bold game-changer in the world of bodybuilding because of his identity as a gay black vegan man.
After experiencing some health issues, Morris transitioned from vegetarianism to veganism. He says,“The western civilization culture is anti-health in that it is designed to produce profit not health.”
29. Isis Kane
Isis Kane is an Exotic Pole Dancer, Video Artist, and Writer.
Originally beginning her career as a filmmaker, Isis sought a new outlet of expression through dance. After finishing her first documentary, she has since dedicated herself to the art of Pole Dance, and currently travels as a performer and Erotic Dance workshop instructor around the U.S. and beyond.
A passionate animal rights advocate, Isis has also spoken at the 2015 Sistah Vegan Conference, and created several videos highlighting various social issues. She is also the author of VeganFeministripper.com, a blog which highlights her personal journey and experiences as a Radical Earthling Goddess.
Isis believes that women’s connection to their bodies, authentic sexuality, and orgasm is an essential part of our global revolution.
To see more of her work, check out her website at isiskane.com.
30. Keith Tucker
Keith Tucker is a health activist, film maker, radio host, journalist, and speaker. For over 20 years, Tucker has been a social justice activist and he was the host of the radio program The Keith Tucker Show. He is the producer of the film, Pursuit of a Green Planet.
He received the 2015 Martin Luther King County Executives Award for Community service, the MLK County Executives award for Hip Hop Excellence and the 2015 Jefferson Award and is responsible for the first ever Hip Hop Health day.
Supa Nova Slom, the son of Queen Afua, is a dynamic musical artist, established author, wellness advocate, and community advocate dedicated to the well-being of young people. His name means: “Shining with the brilliance of a hundred million stars.”
Dexter Scott King is president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-violent Social Change in Atlanta, and has been a vegan since the 1980s. Dexter became vegan after being introduced to the concept by Dick Gregory. King famously said, “If you’re violent to yourself by putting things into your body that violate its spirit, it will be difficult not to perpetuate that onto someone else.” Additionally, he introduced his mother Coretta Scott King to vegansim.
33. Brenda Sanders
Brenda Sanders is a community health advocate and the Executive Director of the Better Health, Better Life organization. Better Health, Better Life brings healthy living to people in underserved Baltimore communities. She’s conducted workshops at senior centers and afterschool programs as well as a six-week intensive series of healthy living classes that was completely free and open to the public.
34. Vanessa Williams
Vanessa A. Williams [who shares her name with another famous actress] is an actress, dancer, and poet. Though she acted in the series Soul Food, Williams has a different articulation of what soul food is. In an interview with Yogi Times, Williams said “I’ve been vegan for over 16 years, my husband for 20. My husband became vegan after having a life-threatening illness… So we met after he had become a vegan. I had a vegan pregnancy. My children are completely vegan. “
35. Dr. Alvenia Fulton
Dr. Alvenia Fulton was a world-renowned nutritionist. As a naturopathic physician, Dr. Fulton opened the first health food establishment in the south side of Chicago called Fultonia Health and Fasting Institute. She authored several books, including The Fasting Primer and a collaborative effort with Gregory called Vegetarianism: Fact or Myth.
36. Anusha Amen-Ra
Anusha Amen-Ra is a Nutrition Consultant specializing in internal cleansing and detoxification. He owns the first black owned vegan recovery detox and healing center. Mr. Amen-Ra has personal clients worldwide and his organizational clients include 24-Hour Fitness, the AIDS Project of the East Bay, Walden House Adolescent Residential Facility, and Breast Cancer Awareness Planning Committee of Bayview-Hunters Point. He holds two B.A. degrees from the University of South Florida and his travels include the Philippines, Europe, Egypt and India. Anusha has been in private practice for 15 years and is the Director of Sacred Space Healing Center.
37. Koya Webb
Koya Webb is an internationally recognized holistic health coach and wellness coach, a certified yoga instructor, author, motivational speaker, and professional fitness model who is helping revolutionize raw/vegan cuisine, yoga, and the holistic living landscape. She is the author of Koya’s Kuisine: “Foods You Love That Love You Back!“
Her holistic health, detox and lifestyle tips have been featured in Essence, Oxygen, Vegan Health and Fitness, Max Sport and Fitness, and Muscle and Performance among others.
38. Lezlie Mitchell
Lezlie Mitchell is a model, vegan, writer, and creator of the site Love Lezliewhere she documents her thoughts on life, beauty, religion, and food. Lezlie also holds a B.A. in English and runs her own YouTube channel.
She started blogging about wellness and health after she discovered she was allergic to many of the foods she was consuming. She ended up creating a website called Skinny Decaf Lattewith new recipes and is currently writing her first book.
39. Valerie McGown
Valerie has been vegan for 8 years after being a vegetarian since 1990. Her awareness of the vegan message of compassion and nonviolence began around 2006 when she came across the works of people like Dr. Amie Breeze Harper, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, and Erik Marcus. As a person of faith, Valerie found this message of not using animals for food, clothing, or any other exploitation to be consistent with her desire to live out her beliefs of compassion and nonviolence.
Five years ago, at the advice of an atheist vegan friend, she started a blog called black. female. christian. vegan. where she occasionally shares her thoughts on issues relating to the seemingly contradictory parts of who she is and the way she sees the world. For the last three years, Valerie has been the director of the Humboldt Vegetarian Society, in Humboldt County, California. They plan monthly vegan potlucks, film screenings, etc.
Valerie has also dabbled in writing and in the last year began writing a story about a young, biracial vegan girl who becomes drawn to and acquires spiritual powers in order to combat the mistreatment and abuse perpetrated against her by family members and others.
40. Persia White
Persia White is an actress known for playing in the popular show Girlfriends. She also co-produced the popular documentary film Earthlings, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix.
Persia is a vegan and an animal welfare and environmental activist. She was honored by PETA as a 2005 Humanitarian of the Year. She is an active member of the Humane Society of the United States, Global Green, Farm Sanctuary, PETA, and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
41. Leona Lewis
Leona Lewis is a famous British singer and songwriter. In 2006, she won the X Factor competition show, as well as a recording contract. She has been a vegetarian since she was 12 and transitioned to veganism in 2012.
She is an animal rights activist and refused to accept a financial offer from a department store that sold fur, saying, “I don’t have clothes, shoes or bags made from any animal products.”
42. Robin Quivers
Robin Quivers is known for being the side-kick to Howard Stern on his radio program. What many people don’t know about her is that she has been vegan since 2007 because of several health ailments.
Coral Smith is a television personality, known for being in MTV’s the Real World. She’s vocal about veganism and animal rights, and also participates in campaigns to support LGBT populations.
44. Salim Stoudamire
Salim Stoudamire is a professional basketball player and vegan. In an interview with ESPN about why he chose veganism, he said, “I’ve always wanted to be one because of health, but I never wanted to go eat by myself or have people talk about me. But I finally reached a point where I just didn’t care what other people thought, and I didn’t have a problem with eating alone…I don’t think you should eat something that had a mother. I don’t think that’s right.”
45. Candace Laughinghouse
After receiving a M.Div (Masters of Divinity), she completed her ThM (Masters of Theology) at Duke Divinity school. She applied to Regent Divinity School to initially work with Dr. Estrelda Alexander and changed her focus within one year. Her focus shifted to animal theology. While pursuing her doctoral degree, she is beginning to get involved with political issues that effect women and children through a local organization called Women AdvaNCe NC. Candace blogs over at curvyveganmommy [which will soon be curvyveganmommyPhD].
Her site states, “My life’s passion is contributing to the discussion of animal rights by shoring up animal theology by constructing a pneumatology of animals – with a womanist perspective. “
46. Toi Scott
A native Texan, currently living in Puerto Rico, they are a gender non-conforming author, playwright, spoken word artist, filmmaker, journalist, medicine-maker, health advocate, food justice activist, anti-racist and anti-oppression organizer/diversity and gender workshop facilitator, and curriculum developer. Toi is also a QPOC/POC (queer/people of color) community builder/organizer.
They have published writings on race, gender, healing, and illness and have been published in People of Color Organize!, Racialicious, Black Girl Dangerous, Wild Gender.com, Decolonizing Yoga, the Scavenger, Examiner.com, the Dallas Voice, BlaqOut Dallas, and various other media outlets and online publications.
They run the Afro-Genderqueerwebsite and have also participated in the 2015 Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter Conference with the presentation titled “ALL Black Lives Matter: Exposing and Dismantling Transphobia and Heteronormativity in Mainstream Black ‘Conscious’ Plant-Based Dietary Movement.”
47. Ama Opare
Ama Opare is a gourmet raw vegan chef, a lifelong educator, and an experienced program director. She earned a BS in Education at Central Michigan University, a MS in Early Childhood Education and an MS in Educational Leadership at Eastern Michigan University.
Anastasia Yarbrough is a consultant, musician, and community educator. She is a social change consultant at Inner Activism Services, LLC. She works with organizations and activists to be more sustainable, effective, and life-affirming. For the last ten years she has been involved in animal rights, community development, women of color’s empowerment and wellness, and ecological justice. She has also served on the board of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies and regularly facilitates anti-oppression workshops on language and communication tactics. She earned her B.S. in Integrated Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. She is currently on the advisory board for the Food Empowerment Project. In 2013, she presented at the first ever Sistah Vegan Conference with a presentation titled “White Supremacy and Patriarchy Hurt Animals.”
49. Odochi Ibe
Known as “The Baby Vegan,” Odochi made the switch to a plant-based life after graduating from Howard University and moving back to New York in 2012. She is a journalist and writer for ieatgrass.com, and wrote a ground-breaking piece for Quartz titled, “It’s Not Easy Being Young, Black, and Vegan.”
Former radio host and motivational speaker, Aiya Abrihet embarked on a journey into the world of all things healthy almost a decade ago. Learning about the effects of food on the body and the dark side of the pharmaceutical companies, Aiya began healing through herbs and a raw vegan diet, curing herself of severe asthma and allergies.
An herbalist, naturopath-in-training, holistic mentor, and vegan chef, Aiya holds a Master of Science in Herbal Medicine and continues to reach out to the people with the message that your body can in fact heal itself naturally from a variety of persistent conditions, once perceived to be permanent.
Princess Dixon is owner of Healthful Essence, a black-owned Atlanta restaurant which specializes in Caribbean style vegan cuisine. The site states, “Our mission is to be a positive force on the planet, providing a higher form of food and lifestyle. Our aim is to educate and enhance the lives of those who are seeking a vegan lifestyle.”
52. Cory Booker
Cory Booker served as mayor of Newark, NJ, from 2006 to 2013 and is currently a United States Senator from New Jersey. Booker was also featured in the documentary Miss Representation, which focused on the ways in which women were represented in the media.
Cory became vegan in 2014 after being vegetarian since 1992. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Cory said “I want to try to live my own values as consciously and purposefully as I can. Being vegan for me is a cleaner way of not participating in practices that don’t align with my values.”
53. Demetrius Bagley
Demetrius produced the award-winning documentary Vegucated, and public television cooking show Vegan Mashup. He’s godfathered projects like Vegan Street Fair, Veggie Conquest, plus a good many successful crowdfunding campaigns.
Demetrius has led one of the world’s largest vegan Meetups, NYC Vegan EatUP, since 2004. He recently reflected on his 20+ years of being vegan in Letters to a New Vegan.
54. Kenneth G. Williams
Kenneth made sports history at the 2004 Natural Olympia in Las Vegas, the most prestigious natural bodybuilding competition in the world. He finished third out of more than 200 competitors from 37 nations and became America’s first vegan bodybuilding champion.
In 2000, Williams became vegan for spiritual reasons. He was aware that being vegan was better for the animals, the environment, and his own health. He also works for In Defense of Animals.
Janyce is a writer, illustrator, feminist, aspiring amateurish vegan cook who loves good food, beauty, natural hair, fashion, traveling, and all sorts of crafty oriented parts of life!
She is a graduate of the Art Academy of Cincinnati with a BFA emphasis in Drawing. She runs the Afro Vegan Chickwebsite where she chronicles her journeys into cooking experimentation, reviewing eating out options, and vegan products as well as creating homemade beauty products.
57. Tamerra Dyson
Tamearra Dyson, owner of Souley Vegan, has been cooking her signature vegan dishes since the age of 18. Chef Dyson, a vegan from an early age, believes in cruelty-free eating.
In an interview with Black Enterprise, Dyson said, “I became vegan before it was a trend so I [initially] got laughed at. In fact, I don’t even think we called it vegan. I do hope that it will help to permanently convert people to a vegan lifestyle that is free of animal cruelty.”
58. Brenda Beener
Chef Brenda has spent the last 30 years researching, cooking, and perfecting the balance between diet and decadence. With her leadership, Seasoned Vegan is committed to fusing soulful, culinary expression with the benefits of veganism. Seasoned Vegan is Harlem’s first full-service vegan soul food restaurant with the “food you love-veganized.”
59. Aaron Beener
Aaron is Chef Brenda’s son and manager of Seasoned Vegan. In an interview with Rolling Out, Aaron said, “Being able to help my mom’s dream become a reality is really amazing… And being able to do that with food that can help our community, and to be able to provide jobs for our friends and family — it’s just all positive.”
60. Brandi Rollins
Released in 2011, Raw Foods on a Budget was the first comprehensive guide to eating raw foods while living on a limited budget. The book was designed by Brandi and a team of readers to provide raw food newcomers and long-term enthusiasts with all the materials they need to enjoy a raw foods lifestyle while successfully staying on a tight budget. The book takes a holistic approach to budgeting by showing readers how small changes can help reduce and keep their food bills low.
Ray Stone is a vegan, author, and educator. He is the author of Eat Like You Give a Damn, which helps readers transition over to a healthier lifestyle. The book is predominantly geared towards people who live in urban areas.
62. Shadé Ibe
Shadé Ibe, better known as One Vegan Fatty, is a native New Yorker who set out on a mission to convince the world that plant-based foods could, and should, still be decadent and delicious…healthiness optional! Shadé is currently working on a Master’s in Public Health, and she hopes to one day spark some positive changes in the area of school nutrition. She is a contributor to ieatgrass.comand a member of the Junior Council of the Coalition for Healthy School Food. Follow Shadé on Instagram (@oneveganfatty) and Facebook (One Vegan Fatty).
63. Matti Merrell
Matti is the owner of the Green Seed Vegan food truck in Houston, TX. What’s unique about this particular food truck is that they don’t serve tofu or processed foods. They make everything from scratch. Check out an interview Matti did with the Houston Press to learn more.
64. Rodney Perry
Rodney is married to Matti Merrell and is the co-owner of the Green Seed Vegan food truck. He went vegan after having an issue with gall stones which was a product of eating fried and processed foods. In an interview, he says, “I didn’t have the problems anymore with digestion…it’s a lifestyle change, and it’s just good. I feel lighter, like you could jump up higher than anyone. It’s a weird feeling but it’s awesome.”
She worked in food service businesses in high school and throughout college and operated her own business serving coffee at festivals for a year after moving to Detroit.
Kirsten earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Masters in Education from Wayne State University. She has over ten years’ experience as a Communications professional.
66. Erika Boyd
Erika Boyd is the co-owner and head chef of Detroit Vegan Soul. Kirsten Ussery is her partner.
Born and raised on Detroit’s northwest side, her early cooking influences were from her mother, grandmother, and father.
A multi-talented entrepreneur, Erika is also a handbag designer, a barber, and a natural hair stylist. For the last seven years, she has owned and operated a natural hair care business which continues to grow year over year. She graduated from Henry Ford High School and attended Wayne State University.
67. John Salley
Salley’s label, The Vegan Vine, produces four wines: a cabernet sauvignon, a sauvignon blanc, a chardonnay, and a red blend. The wines not only use non-animal based fining agents; they are completely vegan-made and sustainably grown at Clos LaChance Winery near San Jose, Calif.
A proud native of Brooklyn, New York, John found a love for basketball at an early age. Salley was a 15-year NBA veteran and was the first NBA player to win four championships with three different teams. After his retirement from the NBA in 2000, Salley explored several opportunities in both television and film. John has served as host for numerous award shows and recently hosted the Reunion Shows of VH-1’s #1 rated show, Basketball Wives.
68. Karyn Calabrese
Karyn Calabrese is a raw foodist vegan who has a complete line of products that support health living. Karyn’s Fresh Corner is considered the oldest raw food restaurant in Chicago. In an interview with Black Enterprise, Karyn states, “As a teenager and young adult I had every allergy known to man, had terrible skin, and was tired all the time. I saw myself going down a bad road. Changing my diet, learning about raw foods, and detoxification changed my life.”
Dr. Bretta King is a chemist and educator who has a strong nutrition background. Her mission is to help people to eat healthier and to have fun doing it – but without force or judgement. She has found through her own research and experiences that the vegan diet (one devoid of animal products) when practiced properly is very beneficial for one’s health and well-being. She runs the restaurant Two Vegan Sistas, which offers delicious, healthy, low fat vegan food at your fingertips!
70. Belinda King
Belinda is the sister to Dr. Bretta King and also runs the Two Vegan Sistas restaurant. Belinda is an artist, poet, and graphic designer who also uses her artistic ability to help to create some of their recipes. Eating an 80% raw vegan diet has helped to protect and shield these sisters from all of the diseases and illnesses that “run in their family,” including obesity.
Lattrice Folkes became vegan after she began acquiring allergies and low energy. Shortly after her transition to vegan living, she realized that she had a talent for preparing vegan food. She has been a vegan chef for over 14 years and worked her way up in a famous vegan restaurant from prep cook to head chef in a short period of time.
Latrice has owned a successful raw vegan deli and health food store in Atlanta, Georgia and also opened Lifeit Energy Café in Greenville, SC in 2007. Latrice has authored the Lifeit Detox 28 Days Raw Food Cleanse.
73. Dr. Aris LaTham
Dr. Aris LaTham is considered to be the father of gourmet ethical raw foods cuisine in America. Dr. LaTham debuted his raw food creations in 1979, when he started Sunfired Foods, a live food company in Harlem, New York. In the years since, he has trained thousands of raw food chefs.
Dr. Aris LaTham was born in Gatun, Panama Canal Zone. He is a direct descendant of an African-Caribbean family of Culinary Griots, as well as vegetarian legacy bestowed by way of his Indian ancestry, who has become a world renown crusader in the area of wholesome foods.
74. Ron Finley
Ron Finley is a famous guerrilla gardener who gained notoriety after a Ted Talk about planting gardens in urban areas, stating that “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”
Ivy D. Collier is an animal advocate guided by the belief that no animal should be abused or neglected. She is currently employed with the Delaware SPCA as the Director of Development, Communications & Marketing and has a history of volunteering for animal shelters and animal advocacy organizations. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Social Psychology and her Master of Public Affairs focusing on fundraising and nonprofit management. As an independent researcher, her interests focus on Human-Animal studies with a specific lens on companion animals and popular culture, canine selfhood, companion animals and public policy, puppy mills, No Kill Movement, shelter management, and the fur trade.
76. John Lewis
John Lewis is a nationally certified fitness trainer and he has spent over 8 years in the health and fitness industry. John is highly passionate about not only his own health and fitness, but that of others as well.
He runs the Bad Ass Vegan website, which discusses health, wellness, and veganism. In an interview with Frugivore Magazine he said, “Not only am I just a vegan in what I eat, I do not wear leather, nor do I have leather furniture. I believe that all living creatures have a purpose and furniture and clothing is not one of them.”
77. Vanya Francis
Vanya Francis, RYT, CHHC, M.A. is a yoga instructor and co-owner of Om Point Yoga, wellness coach, mompreneur, and mostly raw vegan. She is a 15-year yoga practitioner and certified yoga instructor specializing in Prenatal Yoga. Vanya holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Spelman College and a Master of Arts in Communication Management from the University of Southern California.
78. Stephanie Williams
Stephanie is an actress and a writer for Vegan, What? In an article she wrote for Eat Like An Actress she said, “…by eating meat and dairy, I wasn’t just affecting my health, I was also contributing to the pain and suffering of animals and their children.” Check out her Facebook page and Instagram.
79. Nana Kwaku Opare, MD
Dr. Nana Kwaku Opare, MD, MPH, CA is a pioneer in the natural integrative medicine field. He is co-owner and founder of Opare Integrative Health Care, LLCin Atlanta GA, dedicated to the healing of the Afrikan community through medical practice and educational programs in food, nutrition, body movement, and spiritual growth. He is a long-term vegan and more recent living food lifestyle practitioner and advocate. He has practiced Eastern and Western Medicine for more than a quarter century.
Dr. Opare graduated from UC Berkeley, earning both a BS degree studying Food, Nutrition and Dietetics and a Master’s of Public Health degree. He earned his Medical Degree at UC San Francisco and his Certificate in Acupuncture at the San Francisco College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
80. Dr. Kirt Tyson
Dr. Kirt Tyson is the author of the book The Raw Truth: The Recipe for Reversing Diabetes, which is a guide that helps people with diabetes to regain control of their health. He also starred in the documentary film Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days. Dr. Tyson attended Morehouse College and earned his Naturopathic Medical Doctorate from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ. He received a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from the T. Collin Campbell Foundation at Cornell University.
81. Queen Vida
Queen Vida is an International Vegan Chef with over 30 years of experience. Her food is inspired with flavors of Africa and American Soul. She has traveled extensively preparing delicious cuisine for many near and far. Her Food Preparation experience began in Ghana. She then traveled to Israel where she learned more about Vegan Food Preparation.
Michelle Johnson is a vegan home cook with a Masters in School Counseling. Although she no longer works as a teacher, she teaches thousands of people how to cook vegan food on her YouTube channel, Vegan Cooking with Love, which has over 11,000 subscribers.
She became vegan after learning about the horrors of factory farming. Read an interview about her vegan journey on Brown Vegan.
84. Stacey Dougan
With roots in Atlanta, GA, Chef Stacey Dougan has been featured internationally in media as an expert gourmet vegan and raw foods chef and nutritionist. Her passion for teaching stems from her own life-changing experience overcoming numerous health issues.
Tassili Maat is the owner of Tassili’s Raw Reality, a raw food restaurant in Atlanta, GA. Her mother was involved in the civil rights movements in the 1960s, and she became vegetarian after hearing about animal cruelties in the food system. She transitioned to veganism soon after. Read her interview with Natural Awakenings.
She became vegan because she thinks it’s “wrong to exploit animals for their meat and reproductive processes.”
87. Chef Ahki
Chef Ahki is a celebrity chef, Natural foods activist, and pro-blogger. She transitioned to a plant-based diet when she was 18. Though she doesn’t necessarily label herself “vegan” she advocates for a plant-based diet. She received her bachelors in naturopathic science and holistic theology.
Check out Chef Ahki’s website here. You can learn more about her vegan journey in this interview with Bad Ass Vegan.
88. Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons is known for co-founding the hip hop music label Def Jam as well as creating the fashion clothing line Phat Farm. He has been vegan since 1999 because of animal rights reasons as well as environmental/health reasons. He is also a practitioner of transcendental meditation.
89. Anette Larkins
Anette Larkins is a raw foods vegan who has captured headline news media attention because of her youthful appearance while being in her 70s. She became vegetarian in 1963 and then transitioned over to veganism. In an interview with Transitioning Movement she said, “I contend that I am not defying age; at my age I should be experiencing exactly what I am experiencing—agility, vibrancy, the fruitfulness of life, and the wisdom of age. I hope to greet each chronological age that I am able to receive with preparedness to carry on in good standing (being psychologically, physiologically, and spiritually sound) for as long as I can.”
Dr. Darrell Butler is President of Butler Consulting Group, a company which specializes in work environment productivity through personal empowerment and inclusion. He became vegan after realizing that most of the diseases the pharmaceutical industry he was treating were attributed to diet. You can read an interview about his transition to veganism on Blacks Going Vegan.
91. Dr. Timothy Moore
Dr. Timothy K. Moore is a plant-based chef who is a certified raw vegan expert in diabetes and the facilitation of wellness and nutrition. He has developed international awareness programs that provide both nutritional education and culinary training for personal and professional use. His program designs clearly show how food plays a major role in diabetes, weight gain, high blood pressure and cancer.
Chef Dr. Moore is a traditional naturopath doctor, a certified nutrition specialist, a certified Raw Vegan chef, and a food consultant in the development of diabetic menus and friendly meals plans.
92. Ihsan Bey
Ihsan Bey has was introduced to cooking vegan food in 2003 and currently prepares vegan food that nourishes the body. Chef Bey offers monthly brunches at Grind House Juice Bar that attracts people from all over the Baltimore area. You can read more about the vegan chef here.
93. Dr. Ruby Lathon
Dr. Ruby Lathon is a certified holistic nutrition consultant, holistic health and wellness expert, and advocate for plant-based nutrition. Dr. Lathon inspires with a powerful story of recovering from thyroid cancer through alternative treatment focused on a whole foods, plant-based diet. Having worked for years as a researcher and an award winning engineer, Dr. Lathon teaches others how to take charge of their health and live disease free.
Dr. Lathon is host of The Veggie Chest, a plant-based cooking show. She is also a health and wellness contributing writer for African American Lifestyle Magazine, and author of the upcoming book, Above the Clouds.
94. Tasha Edwards
Tasha’s vegan journey started in the summer of 2009 after she read the book Skinny Bitch. In2010, Edwards launched her web show The Sweetest Vegan.She has an audience of over 60,000. You can read more about Tasha in this interview with the Brown Vegan.
95. Njide Kotiel Bey
Rawk N’ Vegan™ is owned and operated by Njide Kotiel Bey, who has a love of vegan and raw foods. Everything is made from scratch in small batches.
NJide has spent years assisting, cooking, and interning at various top raw food establishments in Chicago. She has been cooking raw vegan food for over 15 years.
96. Aba Bailey
In an interview with Food for the Soul, Aba details her journey towards veganism. She says, “I find that when you do it for the health reasons you rationalize it away. So I do it more for the ethics of it, of not supporting certain industries like the dairy industry.”
She was a founding member of the Black Vegetarian Society of Georgia [started by Traci Thomas] and had a cooking show called Cooking with Aba.
Jasmine is a multidisciplinary creative born and raised in Los Angeles. She is a photographer, filmmaker, graphic designer, dancer, fashion designer, writer, and creative director. In 2013 she realized that not only was she surrounded by toxins in her immediate environment but also that she was contributing to the pollution of her own body via poor eating habits. For health as well as spiritual reasons, she took a leap of faith by adopting an all vegan diet and hasn’t looked back since! As a member of the Raw Girlteam, Jazzy photographs, records, and edits all of Raw Girl’s video content. Check out her website.
99. Naki Aya
After suffering with depression, anxiety, and suicidal attempts for years, she changed her eating habits from the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) to a plant based one and increased her intake of raw live fruits and veggies. She has a website detailing her journey through veganism.
100. Chef Rain Truth
Rain Truth is vegan chef, vegan lifestyle educator, caterer,and proud mother of two vegetarian children. She runs The Cultured Vegan and has been a vegan for over a decade. She is also a nationally certified ServSafe® Allergens Specialist as well as a nationally certified ServSafe® Food Protection Manager.
Chef Rain Truth also has a program called Seeds of Truth. Her slogan is: “Cultivating the Minds of our Future.” It is a 6-week hands-on culinary certification course for children. They learn about veganism, food allergens, healthy breakfast options, lunch box ideas, after-school snacks, smoothies, salads and desserts. Her goal is to bring creative expression back into the lives of our youth through culinary arts. She specializes in cultural food and takes pride in exposing the youth to foods from other cultures that they wouldn’t typically be exposed to.
She has two vegan children’s books coming out. One is titled Mama, I’m Be-Gan and the other is co-authored with her children. They’re currently working on a title for it.
I was recently interviewed by Kathryn Ashworth, a Producer at Yoga International, for a story she was doing on veganism and animal sanctuaries. Because of space limitations, only a portion of the interview made it into the final article, so Kathryn and I agreed to post the full text here for interested readers… ~ Justin
1. What is The Microsanctuary Movement? How is a sanctuary a state of mind?
The Microsanctuary Movement is an effort we started based on our work with Triangle Chance for All to help empower others to rescue farmed animals and self-identify as being part of a sanctuary, both through information and resources and through support networks. We are working on our website right now, but in the meantime we have been trying to share helpful tidbits through The Microsanctuary Movement’s Facebook page and our Facebook group, Vegans with Chickens. Through these and future means, we hope that the movement will inspire many vegans to rescue farmed animals, whether that be a rooster and some hens, or a few goats, or whatever species they can accommodate. To us, this is truly revolutionary because relying on large sanctuaries exclusively means limited ability to rescue farmed animals. Large sanctuaries can usually take in a few hundred animals at most, and so much of their income goes to administrative and other non-care costs. Comparatively, a few thousand vegans each rescuing a handful of animals would open up so much more space and (this is important) resources for care.
To answer the question about sanctuary being a state of mind, we have to first recognize that “sanctuary” is about how one cares for rescued animals and sees them as beings worthy of the utmost respect. Thus a microsanctuary centers on a space that is home to rescued animals and emphasizes their health and happiness. So someone with a rescued house rooster is just as much a sanctuary (by virtue of being a microsanctuary) as a million-dollar non-profit with hundreds of acres and hundreds of animals. I am frustrated by how self-limiting we all tend to be when it comes to our views of sanctuaries. I so often hear people say that they want to start their own sanctuary one day if they win the lottery, but without any clear idea of what “sanctuary” really means to them and how to get there. I was there once, and the notion of a typical sanctuary was so daunting that I did not even know where to start to make it happen. By throwing out the ideal, I was able to really think about what sanctuary means for the residents and the caregivers. It is a very powerful relationship and way of living, as well as a perspective on the world and our role as caregivers.
This sense of dedication to the service of rescued farmed animals, as a way to end (and help ameliorate in some way) their exploitation, is what lies at the heart of sanctuary—and on an individual level truly defines a microsanctuary. This is all about how we approach rescuing animals and accommodating them within our lives where we are now, not where we might be at some undetermined future time.
2. Can you give us an example of one animal you rescued and sheltered recently? How did you find them? What’s their story?
There are so, so many beautiful but poignant stories here at the TCA Microsanctuary, because each resident’s story reflects upon both their unique personality but also the exploitation by humans that they were rescued from. One of the dearest to our hearts is that of Bibi, a tiny little hen who came to us after her three flock-mates were killed by a raccoon who broke into the “chicken tractor” they all lived in in someone’s backyard. Bibi barely survived and was maimed in the attack: her top beak was partially bitten off, a hole was punched into her bottom beak, and she also lost part of a wattle. When she arrived, she was clearly suffering from PTSD; she spent several weeks just sitting in a bathroom like a lump. She started to come out of her shell when we put a mirror in with her, and then she really regained some of her spark when we brought in one of our other hens, Hypatia, to be a companion for her. Now she is a real fireball, with plenty of spunk and attitude. She has had to have several surgeries on her beak since then, and will likely always have trouble eating and require special attention, but she really rolls with the punches.
Bibi’s story highlights so many of the problems with backyard chicken-keeping (for example, she was part of a hatching project in which eight of the twelve chicks who were roosters and so were sent back to the farmer and most likely killed). We feel lucky to have gotten the opportunity to give her a better life.
Another story is that of Plutarch the piglet. Plutarch fell off a transport truck in transit and was taken to a rural animal shelter while still a tiny little guy. When one of our board members, Linda James, discovered him at the shelter, we started scrambling to find placement for him (because we knew we could not accommodate an 800-pound farm pig at our microsanctuary). Richard Hoyle at The Pig Preserve, an amazing sanctuary in Tennessee, stepped up and agreed to take Plutarch. TCA board members Linda and Alan Nelson fostered Plutarch for nearly a month, allowing him to grow bigger and stronger in a loving space, and then several board members transported Plutarch to The Pig Preserve in late December—where he is now the most rambunctious, joyful pig you will ever meet.
His story is sad for so many reasons—not just recognizing that he would have been killed in a matter of months for his flesh, but also realizing that he was stolen from his mother at such a young age and never got to know that nurturing parental love as he grew. Animal agriculture is a story of broken families as well as torture and death, and Plutarch’s experience makes that abundantly clear.
3. What do you mean when you say, “veganism is the only satisfactory response to the suffering of non-human animals”? What about humanely raised animals?
There is no “humane” way to eat or use a living being or the things that come from her body. There is a persistent effort in our society to assuage our discomfort with harming other animals by coming up with slightly less bad ways to do the things that make us uneasy. There is no longer any doubt that, as a species, humans can thrive on a plant-based diet and have no need to exploit other beings for our benefit. That recognition of our ability to live without directly harming other animals has to frame this entire discussion about whether or not it is possible to exploit those beings “nicely.”
It takes little time researching the practices of every agricultural industry to see that animals are commodities, not individuals. You cannot justify killing a living being who is not in pain many, many years before he or she would naturally die. But that very thing happens with cows, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits…any animal used for food, really. There is a vast difference between when an animal is at “market weight” (i.e., when they are old/large enough to slaughter for prime profits) and when an animal is at the end of their natural lifespan. Chickens can live up to 13 or 14 years, for example, yet “broiler” chickens raised for meat are slaughtered after six weeks. Even dairy cows, who are supposedly given a better life because they are not raised for meat, still end up as hamburger after their milk production declines after a few years. It makes no sense for a farmer or corporation to keep feeding, vetting, and otherwise dealing with an animal who is not at peak production. If you want proof of this, research what happens to “spent” laying hens, whether they are in battery cages or so-called “free-range” farms, once their egg production declines after a couple of years—if they even make it that far.
As for chickens naturally producing eggs, which is a common misconception, it is helpful to understand the biology of a modern domesticated hen. The wild ancestors of domesticated chickens, which are wild jungle fowl from South Asia, lay at most ten to fifteen eggs per year strictly for reproduction. In contrast, domesticated hens have been selectively bred and genetically altered by humans to produce 250-300 eggs per year. This genetic manipulation has turned hens into victims of their own biology, leaving them trapped in their own bodies, and it is directly responsible for the fact that most hens die before age five because of reproductive system complications (especially cancer). So to say a hen “naturally” produces the eggs humans eat is to utterly twist what “natural” actually means. There is nothing natural about a domesticated hens’ eggs, just as there is nothing ethical about eating them. Whenever a human eats a hens’ egg, whether it came from a battery cage or a backyard flock, they are perpetuating this inescapable suffering that hens endure.
Veganism is the only answer to this situation because there is no good way, no ethically defensible method or process, to exploit other beings for our benefit. Period. Once you accept the fact that animals exist for their own reasons, and have as much right to live as individuals with their own autonomy, then the question of how they are exploited is a moot one. One cannot exploit another being and pretend that one is being nice about it. One cannot justify using other animals when the only reason for doing so is personal tastes and habits and a refusal to look past the traditions and corporatized narratives telling us we need animal products to be healthy. To do otherwise is to turn individuals into objects, and that can never be justified.
4. What about people who say that they can’t afford to not eat meat due to health issues?
In almost all cases, health arguments for eating meat or other arguments are based on ignorance of actual human nutrition, an attempt to excuse away a desire to eat animal products, or a combination of similar factors. I recognize that some humans may have such severe health issues that eating a plant-based diet is extremely difficult, just as I recognize that many humans live in food deserts and have a huge challenge just finding adequate food to feed themselves and their families. But the majority of us have the capabilities, both in our physical needs and our resources, to stop eating animal products. This is even true for athletes who put their bodies in much more rigorous and demanding physical conditions. There are vegan ultra-marathoners, bodybuilders, mixed martial arts fighters, NFL football players… It is abundantly clear, looking at living breathing humans, that being athletic does not prohibit being vegan.
5. How do animals, particularly the ones we classify (culturally) as less important (pigs, chickens, cows… etc.) give your life meaning? Why do you connect with them as individuals when so many see them as food?
Being vegan for us is centered on the idea that other animals deserve as much respect and consideration as our fellow humans. Living with and rescuing animals (in particular farmed animals), however, reflects the fruition of our ethical principles put into practice. This is especially true for farmed animals because all of us, even vegans, have accepted the idea that they are somehow different than dogs, cats, and the other species we classify as “companions.” They live on farms somewhere out in the country and are owned by farmers … unless they are lucky and go to a big farm sanctuary that is also out in the country and run by a different sort of farmers.
It would be hard for us to pinpoint a reason why we connect with farmed animals as individuals, except to say that it is an entirely impossible task for us to do otherwise. Humans have desensitized themselves to violence and exploitation, in particular by compartmentalizing them so as to ignore or forget them. We, and other ethical vegans, are not able to do that any longer. Taking that to the next level, we are committed to helping as many animals as we can get the respect that they deserve by getting them out of the exploitative systems they are trapped in. Getting involved with farmed animal rescue and care has led to a profound shift in how we see ourselves as vegans. It is no longer so much a negative orientation, in the sense that we are trying to not cause harm or not be part of exploitation. It feels so much more positive to have a direct role in and responsibility for the care of the very individuals for whom we went vegan. All of us at Triangle Chance for All are and always have been vegan for the animals; saving and sustaining the lives of as many of them as we can has given our veganism so much more depth, meaning, and relevance.
6. What do you think it will take to finally convince people that this is a social crisis? Is the solution simply a matter of leading by example?
We have to do the work and reach the humans we can but not wait on others to make change happen. This means focusing on helping the victims of human greed as much as possible while also advocating on their behalf. It often seems that no one ever listens, and that we are losing the battle to make a society that is kind to all beings. But whether or not we achieve our goals, we have to do the work and strive as hard as we can. Otherwise we can be sure we will lose.
I do not think leading by example is enough, though it is important. We have to feel within ourselves the urgency of non-human animal liberation because it is far too easy to deprioritize or forget their suffering. Empathy is important, but it is not the same as experiencing what they do, and I think this is a large part of why so little has actually changed with how humans treat other animals. So I think “what it will take” is some sort of crisis that makes consuming animals immediately harmful or impossible. Even with as many vegan products and resources as we have available now, vegans are still a tiny minority (about 2.5% or so) of the American population, and this is true globally as well. It is not a matter of practicalities.
I try hard not to be a pessimist with this whole issue. Humans have a hard time acknowledging crises until they significantly affect the humans (especially the humans with the most power and privilege) themselves. That is why it is so crucial for those of us who do get it to both advocate to other humans and act to make change happen for the individuals who suffer—whether that means helping others go vegan or rescuing animals from exploitation. Advocacy and leading by example are not enough; activism, whatever that means for you (be it protests, disruptions, leafleting, rescuing animals…), has to be a key part of how we live in the world as vegans.
7. Do you practice yoga? If so, how does your practice influence your activism?
That depends on how you define yoga, I suppose. If you mean mat work, Rosemary and I, as well as board member Linda Nelson, practiced yoga for years before starting TCA. We all saw yoga as a practice while also taking seriously the principles behind it. For example, ahimsa is a principle of not harming that (we feel) provides an imperative for being vegan. This is why Jivamukti Yoga, for example, includes veganism as a component of the practice. It is a shame that more modern yoga traditions and practitioners do not recognize this.
You could also see what we do as a form of karma yoga, of course. As someone who studied and practiced Buddhist meditation for many years, as well as yoga, I feel very strongly that our “practice” is most important when it is actualized through our ways of living in the world. What we do in private on our mats or our cushions should be a foundation for how we live in and influence the world around us. We should also do more to acknowledge how intentional acts of service, compassion, and justice are essential components of a practice of ahimsa.
Autumn (foreground) and Salem of Triangle Chance for All came into the Microsanctuary at different times, from different places, but when both were adolescents. After a few weeks of socialization, they became best friends. Now they are almost never apart.
Every evening when we bring people inside for bed, we typically take Autumn in first. Inevitably Autumn makes a fuss until we bring his buddy inside, and Salem runs up to us when we go to get him, expectantly waiting to be picked up and carried back in to see his friend.
The bond between these roosters is absolutely charming, just as the larger rooster flock they are a part of is delightful to behold. Our cultural assumptions and notions about roosters are sadly shallow reflections of their true personalities. Living with them as we do, as vegans, we cannot but appreciate their beauty … and feel dismay over the fact that so many see them as merely unwanted “byproducts” of the eggs they eat.
Autumn and Salem are individuals, and they are a pair. They are not, and never were, mere byproducts.
A very valid concern that arises among intersectional animal rights activists is how to be sensitive to the needs of multiple groups without dismissing or appropriating their struggles. How do we build communities by starting respectful dialogues that recognize analogous injustices? I don’t have all of the answers myself. Fortunately, I’ve spent many years being a poor ally so that you don’t have to!
Here are eight tips I learned about having discussions that draw provocative parallels:
1.) Do NOT compare two groups. Whether discussing sexism and racism or humans and animals, remember that you’re constructing similarities between LIKE SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION. Stay in the right conversation. Comparing two groups isn’t even useful, because marginalized communities have dramatically different needs. So stick to the structural issues that are similar, and let people grow their empathy based on their understanding of how they’ve been impacted by the same type of discrimination as someone else.
2.) Present the information, but don’t argue the case. Sharing information is distinctly different from pushing an agenda. If you present information that has a clear, direct message, it speaks for itself without you really having to do the heavy lifting. There’s a difference between presenting connections that link systems of oppression and appropriating one struggle to further the goals of another.
3.) Restrict your role to being the messenger. The best way to avoid appropriating a group’s struggle is to not do it at all. Really, you don’t need to; instead, amplify the voices of people from that marginalized community who are raising awareness about speciesism themselves. Preaching from a place of privilege about things you don’t understand is wrong. Instead, share what you learned from discussions started by people who have had those experiences. For example, I’m not a woman; but I frequently research the voices of vegan feminists who recognize why issues like female reproductive rights make speciesism a feminist issue.
4.) Listen to objections with an open mind. If someone from another group tells you that something hurts them, acknowledge them. If you’ve made a mistake, seek to understand why this discussion is painful for them. Listen.
5.) Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you share information. This is as much about you learning as it is about your audience learning. Get input from the communities involved. Hear them.
6.) Be authentic. It’s no secret that there are plenty of racists, homo antagonists, and sexist people in animal rights; but those agendas are obvious. For instance, many PETA campaigns clearly do not care about other marginalized communities because they employ fat shaming, sexism, and shockingly even speciesism to convey an ultimately incoherent message. Conversely, I see activists who discuss ALL oppression: police brutality against black and brown bodies, awareness of reproductive rights, eliminating homo antagonism, the need to call out racist slurs against Chinese communities. The sincere intersectional advocate is usually apparent—and if you’re an honest, authentic voice who speaks with conviction, it will be noticed.
7.) Stay focused. Direct the discussion to concentrate on how speciesism (or whatever compared injustice) hurts the people in that community. The funny thing about oppression is that it hurts everyone. Speciesism disenfranchises people of color, women, the homeless, people with disabilities, and more! Remember, your goal isn’t to fetishize the people from that community or to objectify them. So don’t speak for them or make yourself a martyr on their behalf. Your goal is to help everyone involved–human and nonhuman. Identifying how speciesism further marginalizes both groups gives us an opportunity to elevate everyone.
8.) Own mistakes. If you f*ck up, you f*ck up. We’ve all done it—and we’re all going to continue to do it. As much as I use my privilege to support women, I’m still a man who benefits from male privilege. As often as I speak up for people with disabilities, I still recognize that I regularly perpetuate ableism unconsciously. Just OWN it when you do. Accountability goes a long way to legitimizing your authenticity. Apologize. Learn from your mistake, and move on. You’re not perfect, and pretending to be will only get you into bigger trouble.
I don’t know if these come up in your timelines with any regularity. But they come up in mine. Occasionally, I have friends who share these hidden camera videos where a white (or white presenting) person commits an aggression against a black person (and occasionally other marginalized persons of color) to provoke what is perceived to be a comic reaction. This video in particular takes a look at ways in which the ‘prank’ backfires, which I guess is supposed to be comedy in and of itself.
But for me (and I suspect other black people), it’s actually very traumatizing. What is perceived as a joke actually ends up being a reminder of just how very much whiteness is privileged. To think that you can actually target a person of color, a complete stranger no less, solely for your amusement, use racially antagonistic language, reinforce patriarchy by ’emasculating’ them, and humiliate them for a cheap laugh is nothing less than terrifying in the 21st century.
So what am I asking you to do? Well, three things:
1.) If you’ve shared videos like this before, now you know. Please reconsider before sharing them again.
2.) Share this status. Raise awareness of how promoting violence for entertainment’s sake (or provoking it) normalizes violence similarly to the way that eating animals normalizes violence (see how that intersectionality business works for all you vegans out there who clown me about it?).
3.) If you see your friends share videos like this, talk to them about it. You don’t have to call them out publicly. Just send them a private message. Be an ally!
And yes, before you say it, I know prank videos target white people too. But in a society where black lives are disproportionately targeted by police brutality, continually disenfranchised economically and academically, and held to a different standard than our white peers, jokes like this are not a laughing matter. I guarantee the outcome would be different with a black antagonist.
Justin was recently interviewed by Alessandra Seiter, founder of Chickpeas & Change, where he discusses Triangle Chance for All, microsanctuaries, problems with the vegan movement, and intersectional activism. Read the full interview here:
I see homeless people with enough (disturbing) regularity that i learned to carry around a little food to share. Yesterday a man approached me when I was coming out of the post office and asked if I could help him get something to eat. I led him to my car and offered him a bag of chips and a banana. He looked at me for a second and said with a reluctant smirk, “I’ll take the banana, but I’ll pass on the chips.” Immediately, I judged him as being picky.
But he continued by pulling down his lip and said, “I don’t have enough teeth.” And my privilege was swiftly checked. Long-term homeless people don’t have access to dental insurance.
If you can, please share food (hopefully soft). And don’t be afraid to give a dollar when you can afford to do so. Worrying about whether or not your single is going toward drugs or alcohol says more about you than it does about the person you’re judging.
[Read more about respectfully and compassionately responding to panhandling at Everyday Feminism.]
In a Google search for news of the horrific shooting that took place yesterday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the Muslim identity of the three victims is named many times, but the whiteness of the murderer is apparently not headline news.
It should be.
Whiteness must be made visible, and white people must be the ones to make it so. We have to learn the history – the real history, not the fictitious narrative – of whiteness: imperialism, colonialism, genocide, scientific and commodity racism, domination, assimilation. Anti-blackness is white supremacy. Islamantagonism is white supremacy. Each manifestation of this ideology is its own twisted system requiring specific address, but we have to stop placing the entire focus on the oppressed and start naming the oppressor. Yes, three Muslim students were killed. But this is only half the story, and it is framed in a way that erases the perpetrator. A white man killed three Muslim students. White supremacist thought manifested in an act of white power.
The Chapel Hill Police have a vested interest, conscious or not, to maintain the illusion that white supremacy no longer exists, and their story of a dispute over a parking space fits that narrative. I have heard white people hope aloud that this crime wasn’t racially motivated, a hope invested in keeping whiteness invisible. Of course this crime was racially motivated. It was motivated by white supremacy.
We have to acknowledge the reality that led a white man to execute three Muslim individuals, but white people don’t want to do the work of deconstructing a historical fiction of liberty and entrepreneurship that paints us as heroes. That story is comfortable for us, for obvious reasons. We like to leave out white supremacy entirely, but that was a foundational principle in the creation of the United States, and it has survived in silence and secret thanks to our unwillingness to name it as we benefit from the privilege it grants us.
In a town that claims to cherish diversity and liberal thinking, protests recently around the many memorials to white supremacists on the UNC campus, most notably Saunders Hall named for a former Grand Dragon of the KKK, have been met with indifference from administration. The murderous intent of whiteness is benign to white people who fancy themselves progressive, tolerant, loving, post-racial. Thus, when a white man murders a black man, his whiteness is not up for discussion. When a white man murders a Muslim, his whiteness isn’t an issue. No, instead the identities of the victims are the focus, and this only reinforces white supremacy.
Every time a white person engages in a terrorist act, an excuse is made. The rhetoric favors them. They are troubled or “mentally ill” (ableism is always a convenient crutch to support white supremacy), and we all see it time and again – loners. They do not speak for the white race, because there is no white race. This is the problem. This has been the problem.
The story may be framed in ways that tempt you to believe that the murderer’s motivations were not deeply rooted in white supremacy. He might not even see that himself. But we must see it. We must name it. We must stop wishing that this horrifying reality is non-existent. We must stop looking for a way to sweep it under the rug. We must expose the brutal reality of whiteness.
I have always been pretty comfortable being vocal as a vegan and engaging people about all of the many issues related to consuming and exploiting animals.
I am also an unabashed atheist, but I find having serious critical discussions about religion to be an entirely different affair. When dealing with people of faith, my experience is that it is very difficult to question religion (especially in the context of animal exploitation) and keep people from shutting down or knee-jerking; on a larger scale, there is little effort done to shine a light on the inherent difficulties in making a religious argument for other-animal liberation. Equally as frustrating, the majority of those in the atheist, secularist, and humanist movements do not express much interest in, or devote much time to, talking seriously about the ethics of animal exploitation outside of a theological framework without resulting to anthropocentrism and speciesism.
That obviously puts atheistic vegans in an odd place: do we focus on critiquing religion as part of a larger conversation against oppression, or do we minimize that concern and instead try to engage people of faith in their own terms? Is secularism a totally separate field than veganism and activism for other animals?
These are old conundrums for me, which is why I am so excited about Kim Socha’s latest book, Animal Liberation and Atheism. It is a brilliant work, both in its examination of ALL religious traditions and for Socha’s bravery in taking on both sides of the big religious debate. I particularly enjoyed her careful treatment of the anthropocentric nature of all religious traditions and a similar bias amongst the rationalist secular community. Also important is her emphasis on not catering to the faithful with religious arguments in order to promote veganism:
Any arguments against oppression and violence offered by religious advocates–whether they be for humans, nonhumans, or even the environment–can be made without mention of divine beings. Any arguments made by slavery abolitionists, suffragists, and civil rights leaders that include appeals to God’s will can be just as powerful and meaningful if the divine is omitted from the rhetoric. Just because positive social change has occurred due to the hearts and minds of religious activists does not mean there is a divine force at play or that the same spirit of progress cannot exist without religious belief.
All of these topics are crucial for us to consider if we are to take serious steps away from oppressive systems. As Socha makes abundantly clear, even (indeed especially) religion must receive a critical examination in order to break perhaps the main pillar supporting speciesism. Animal Liberation and Atheism is truly a must read!